version, an example of how scholarship can help in the performances
of Early Music, utilises choral strengths sparingly but the results
speak admirably for themselves. The choral sound is full without
sounding excessive. The intrinsic problems of engineering sound
for a large choir is cleverly avoided by resorting to a smaller,
but more "correct" assortment of singers, as Bach would have had
available to him in his days. In addition, the sacrifice made here,
of size for clarity is certainly suited to the modern reprise of
authentic sound. Further, the complex score benefits enormously
from the resulting transparency.
Herreweghe's understanding of choral music is as usual, impeccable.
The Collegium Vocale artists are exceptional and lines are clear,
well punctuated and technique secure beyond doubt. Intonation problems
are few, minor and unobtrusive despite the demanding nature of the
music. One wishes that execution could be clearer in Fürchte
dich nicht, ich bin bei dir, BWV 228 - where vocal insecurity
of individual vocal parts becomes evident.
choir sound has a slight edge which mars an otherwise indulgent
experience. Individual voices seem to stick out where the texture
thins down to alternating lines. It is my opinion that no choir
has yet been able to achieve a "perfect" rendition of these motets
purely because of the enormous requirements on choral competence,
vocal virtuosity and stamina.
In Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden, BWV 230, Herreweghe comes
close to this ideal with a very energetic and dazzling display of
choral greatness. Vocal shading and line phrasing are sustained
Herreweghe's reading, musical imagination abound with good vocal
colouring of important lines. Though some parts may appear too straight
forward and one may hope for a more emotional reading, I am left
wondering if a better performance of the complete motets are at
are employed only for Jesu meine Freude, BWV 227 and they
cooperate seamlessly in that number. Harmonic parts are well-balanced
in volume, while phrasing and vocal shading of individual voice
parts could not be bettered. Again, Herreweghe has chosen his soloists
with due attention to tone quality and their voices blend well.
Sopranos sound almost like trebles. One feels also that the chosen
tempos must be exactly right.
only drawback of the set is that sopranos are used in place of trebles.
Though the use of trebles are associated with problems of their
own, one is left wondering who better to deal with them than Herreweghe
himself. La Chappelle Royale of Paris doubles with the Collegium
Vocale in double choir works. The Orchestra de la Chappelle Royale
provides decent support throughout. Herreweghe directs these motets
believes that listening to Bach will get you closer to God.
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30.5.1998 © NG Yeuk Fan
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